6 questions with Diageo’s head of multicultural marketing
Ad Age’s annual 40 Under 40 feature is coming up. Ahead of its publication on Oct. 5, we are asking former honorees questions about topics in the news, including how they are dealing with the coronavirus. Don’t forget to nominate your own rising stars for this year’s list ahead of the Aug. 5 deadline. You can do so here.
Ryan Robertson, innovation director and head of multicultural marketing for liquor giant Diageo, appeared on Ad Age’s 40 Under 40 list in 2019. While only a year has gone by, a ton has changed. The pandemic has significantly altered booze marketing, and the nationwide protests demanding racial equality have put corporate diversity efforts under the spotlight. Below, Robertson addresses those topics and more.
What’s been the biggest change in your role due to the pandemic?
We have had the challenge of finding new, unique and fresh ways to meaningfully engage consumers in the virtual realm. We’ve had to also consider the long-term implications and opportunities that the pandemic will have on the future of celebration, given this is certainly our “new normal” for some time.
What must the marketing industry do to hire and promote more people of color?
Companies must set distinct, specific and measurable targets for people of color at every level. And do it swiftly. Giving people of color a seat at the table means prioritizing ethnically diverse representation at the most senior levels (C-suite, boards, senior leadership, etc).
Lastly, organizations must hold themselves accountable by tracking and communicating regular progress against this agenda to the organization, and beyond.
What is one lesson you’ve learned from the last four months?
It’s ok to not be ok. With the global pandemic, social injustice and unrest, and economic uncertainties, we are all dealing with a lot. Sometimes we feel we must put on a facade and pretend everything is just fine. It’s ok to admit you’re not ok! And the more we individually subscribe to this notion, giving ourselves the latitude to authentically express our feelings in times of turmoil, the more we give others the power and permission to do so as well. This is where true growth, learning and empathy occurs.
What piece of advice do you wish you could give your younger self?
Always embrace your differences and the unique perspective you bring. No one has ever influenced the world trying to be like it.
What do you find most surprising about where you are now?
I never imagined I could be successful professionally doing all the things I love to do. I have always loved music, entertainment, culture and community ... and the notion that I could parlay these passions into a legit career, continue to grow and make our brands relevant and beloved in this same culture, was unfathomable.
Who is your hero and why?
I am continuously inspired by my parents, who happen to be phenomenal marketers and entrepreneurs. Not only does my fearlessness come from them, but I like to say they are where I get my “hustle and heart” from.